Junior Danny Barry lifted the smoking silver metal lid. Uncovering a platter of raw meat, he revealed the secret ingredient – American bison – in the first-ever Iron Chef UM competition at the Mahoney-Pearson Dining Hall on Wednesday evening.
Three teams of two student celebrities wearing black aprons and white chef hats were paired with an on-campus executive chef in the event planned by Student Government (SG) and Dining Services.
SG Vice President Caitlin Giles, who competed alongside SG President Nawara Alawa, exclaimed an excited “woohoo” at the prospect of cooking with the unusual ingredient.
Aromas of blueberry barbecue sauce and bison lettuce wraps wafted in the dining hall, reeling in students having dinner.
“It smells good in here,” said SG Executive-at-Large External Bhumi Patel, who worked with Dining Services to plan the competition.
Other student spectators dined on hors d’oeuvres, while the three teams prepared their meals. A panel of six judges, which included Vice President of Student Affairs Pat Whitely and Director of the Wellness Center Norm Parsons, taste-tested each of the dishes to select a winner.
Hurricane athletes Nrithya Sundararaman and Miles Levine won the competition with their dish: bison burgers with Caribbean slaw.
“Nrithya and Miles are both athletes, so we cover a wide base of campus, and they represent a lot of campus coming together for this event,” Patel said.
Brenden Koller, president of the Interfraternity Council, and Steven Priepke, assistant dean of students, made up the final team of competitors. An executive chef who works in the Hurricane Food Court assisted as they used hanger steak, a cut of bison beef similar to skirt steak.
Junior Jordan Livingston came to the event to support his friends, Alawa and Giles, and the SG program.
“It’s a way fancier setup than I thought it would be,” said Livingston, an SG enthusiast. “It’s really exciting.”
The event concluded with a public announcement about the renovations that will take place in the Mahoney-Pearson Dining Hall.
“We decided on this type of atmosphere, and that we would incorporate the reveal of the renovations into it because it’s perfect timing and to have it at Mahoney dining hall, where the renovations are taking place,” Patel said.
The building will be knocked down, and the new dining hall will offer high-top seating, conference-style seating for large groups and even outdoor seating. Posters of building renderings were on display.
“Students have been coming by and looking at the posters for it,” said Barry, the marketing intern for Chartwell. “We’ve got some really, really awesome stuff coming next year.”
This will hopefully not be the last Iron Chef event at UM, said Patel, who is also the SG President-elect.
“I hope it’s a tradition that continues,” she said.